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The US plans to bolster its missile defences on the west coast to counter the threat from North Korea, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced. He said the US would add 14 interceptors, which can shoot down missiles in flight, to 30 already in place in California and Alaska by 2017. But the final phase of the US European Missile Defence programme is being scrapped to partly fund the project. Due to begin in 2022, it would have sited interceptors in eastern Europe. Mr Hagel cited a "series of irresponsible and reckless provocations" recently by North Korea. Pyongyang carried out a third nuclear test last month. A statement in North Korean state media last month also threatened the US with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Europe plan shelved However, analysts say the regime is years away from producing a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the US. "The US has missile defences to protect us from limited ICBM [Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile] attacks," Mr Hagel told Friday's press conference. "But North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and has engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations."
The plan to beef up U.S. missile defense capabilities will also affect Japan, given the increasingly threatening posture adopted by its neighbor North Korea. “With the support of the Japanese government, we’re planning to deploy additional radar in Japan,” the defense chief said, adding the measure is aimed at providing “improved early warning and tracking of any missile launch from North Korea at the United States or Japan.” Hagel was referring to an X-band radar system that Tokyo and Washington are considering installing in Japan, in addition to the existing large-scale radar unit at an Air Self-Defense Force base in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan. Japan and the United States are considering installing a second X-band radar system in an ASDF base on the Sea of Japan coast in Kyoto Prefecture, western Japan. Asked when the second X-band radar will be installed, James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters, “At this point, I would say it’s a matter of at least some months,” although the two governments are discussing the precise timing of the installation.